Australian police today arrested 15 people in connection with a terror plot, allegedly ordered by an Australian member of ISIS, to behead random citizens on video in the manner of Foley, Sotloff, and Haines. Some 800 police officers reportedly took part in the raid, the largest anti-terrorist operation in the country’s history:
Mohammad Ali Baryalei, a former Kings Cross bouncer and part-time actor, is understood to have made the instruction to kidnap people in Brisbane and Sydney and have them executed on camera. That video was then to be sent back to IS’s media unit, where it would be publicly released. Omarjan Azari, 22, from the western Sydney suburb of Guildford, was one of 15 people detained during the operation in Sydney and is accused of conspiring with Baryalei and others to act in preparation or plan a terrorist act or acts, court documents show. Commonwealth prosecutor Michael Allnutt told Sydney’s Central Local Court the alleged offence was “clearly designed to shock, horrify and terrify the community”.
Ishaan Tharoor puts the news in context:
The Soufan Group, a terrorism monitor, estimates that roughly 250 Australian nationals have joined the conflict in Syria. That number may be on the high end, though. Whatever the figure, a considerable proportion of the Australians jihadists are likely in the ranks of the Islamic State. The Herald Sun “unmasks” the identity of more than a dozen of them, including a former kickboxer and TV star. There are half a million Muslims in Australia and only the tiniest of minorities have anything to do with the networks connecting disaffected Muslims in the Antipodes to jihadist causes in the Middle East. Terror experts say the “jihadist scene” in the country is still very small. The worst attack suffered by Australia was in 2002: a set of coordinated bombings in the Indonesian island of Bali, linked to al-Qaeda, that killed hundreds, including 88 Australians.
Ed Morrissey reacts:
This is one reason why the rise of a terrorist state is not just a local issue, or a regional issue. Terrorist states do not want to just be “left alone,” but will spread their terror and destruction until stopped. There is plenty of room for rational and legitimate debate on the most effective way to deal with ISIS and its genocidal army, but ignoring it or shrugging it off as a problem for the Arabs to solve won’t do anything but make our options much more limited and much more costly when we finally do deal with the problem.
Jon Emont takes a look at ISIS’s recruitment efforts in nearby Indonesia:
As IS battles for territory in the Middle East, the group is also fighting for hearts and minds in Indonesia. In recent months, IS propaganda, urging Indonesians to support the militants’ cause in the Middle East, has spread throughout the archipelago via social media and local radical groups. The government has responded decisively. In early August, Jakarta enlisted Indonesia’s most respected Muslim authorities to denounce the organization, and has banned Youtube videos that endorse the jihadis. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been outspoken in rejecting the group — he banned it, called it “embarrassing” to Islam, and arrested Indonesians suspected of providing support for IS.
In late August, the government tightened security around Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, after intelligence suggested that militants linked to IS were targeting it. On Sept. 13, Indonesian police arrested seven suspected militants, including four foreigners, on suspicion that they were linked to IS. So far, the government’s efforts seem to have been surprisingly effective: Jakarta estimates that there are only 60 Indonesian fighters for IS.